We should always be prepared to be surprised in politics, yet, somehow, we never are. Gen. Wesley Clarks entry into the Democratic campaign is very significant. The crop of nine dry-as-dust candidates have been nuked. The only one that will surive is Howard Dean, and he may not. Its a new world for the Democrats, and I am confident that they are all losing sleep (as well as many staffers who will have shifted to Clark). This is a terrifying time for them. Except for Dean, they have not been able to engage the imagination of Democrats. Their petty poll numbers, and the lack of movement in those numbers, have been the scientific indication of an already well known fact: The nine are seen to be awkward, petty, slippery, and utterly uninspiring. The pudding has had no theme. Now it does. Clark has the authority that all of them have lacked. Furthermore, and this is no small point, it has become crystal clear in the last few days that Hillary and Bill are pushing Clark.
John Fund understands this. And, lets face it, Bill Clinton is a giant among the current crop of pygmies. (In fact, there is no Democrat anywhere in the country that is anywhere near his equal. The only people who could have displaced his authority are Gore and Liebermann, and they failed). He dominates. Bill will continue to re-define the Democratic Party. He not only has the Party apparatus, now the candidate. And he is the one that can get the money. As John Fund notes, even if Clark doesnt get elected president, Bush will not trounce him, as he would Dean. That will leave the Democratic Party in better shape for Hillarys candidacy in 2008. And, in the unlikely case that Clark becomes president, the Clintons would be sitting in the front row. Even the New York Times story on Clarks announcement understands something of the Clinton connection. I also understand that there are questions about Clark. Richard Cohen dwells on the fact that he is not likeable as a person: he is self-centered, brash, driven, hard on subordinates, and so on. He has no friends, so to speak. Well, Gore was no different, and he almost became president. But Gore wasnt respected, and Clark is. That is sufficient, especially relative to Dean and the other eight, now, former Democratic candidates.